`Ho Ho Ho. See My Secretary. Ho Ho Ho'

Santa Claus: jolly embodiment of the holiday spirit? Or hard-nosed time manager? Wait, you're right on both counts. This Christmas season, suburban Chicago's popular Woodfield Mall offered kids the chance to book five-minute appointments with St. Nick. The trial program, which ended on Dec. 6, proved so popular, says Marketing Director Paddy Buratto, that the mall plans to offer it next year all the way through Christmas.

The mall's general manager, Jim Linowski, hit on the idea as a way to shorten the long lines of children and parents waiting to meet the great (some older kids might say gross) man. And five minutes gives bashful tykes time to get comfortable with Santa. "This way, other parents aren't glowering at a child who isn't moving along," says Buratto. And with up to 26,000 kids expected to visit Woodfield's Santa, up 3,000 from 1991, something simply had to be done about cycle time.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.